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Listening to the Locals: The Life and Times Of

Brooklyn-based band The Life and Times Of, led by the energetic vocalist/guitarist Cedric Lamar, has been impressing the scene with their interesting mix of rock, blues and soul for a few years now.  Since the release of their album Gallows and Glory this past August, the group has been playing to packed, excited audiences at venues like Mercury Lounge, Rockwood Music Hall, Sullivan Hall and more.  They’ve got the chops, the songwriting skills, the dance moves and the handsome good looks… check out their song “The City,” a catchy and honest tune about our fair New York, and give the rest of their collection a listen here.   As I mentioned in a previous review (I’ve been following these dudes for awhile), be sure to have some whiskey on hand… it’s the kind of rock-and-roll that goes well with drunkenness.
The City by The Life and Times Of…

I recently read Dwight Garner’s article in The New York Times on how contemporary novelists take too many years to publish their next book.  Entitled, “Dear Important Novelists: Be Less Like Moses and More Like Howard Cosell,” Garner argues that in order for novelists to remain prominent in our culture, they need to publish more frequently.  This is not to say they need to come out with three books a year (in fact, he pokes fun at “pop writers” who do so, joking that James Patterson has a “tree filled with Keebler elves outfitted with laptops and wee kegs of Red Bull” helping him to complete his novels) but that one book a decade isn’t enough.

Whether one agrees with Garner’s argument or not, I think he fails to address an important element: money.  At the end of page one, he does say, “The very economics of being a writer function as a set of speed bumps.  Most novelists hold down teaching positions that subsidize their work; these jobs are also work-thwarters.”  However, this is the only reference he makes to the difficult reality that many artists in America are faced with.  Expressing oneself through art is not highly regarding in this country, despite how much we depend on our Kindles and iPods.  Most novelists, even some of the “important” ones, do not make enough money off their writing to support themselves and their families (especially in expensive cities like New York where many of them tend to live).  The term “subsidize” isn’t quite right; many authors make their living from these teaching jobs.  Then, in order to complete a novel, they have to make the time outside of this work to do the writing.

Sure, there are exceptions.  Some authors do make plenty of money from their publications and still take ten years to write something new.  And Garner’s article did focus mostly on Jeffrey Eugenides (pictured), who, I imagine, is by no means poor.  While I think someone like Eugenides will be culturally prominent no matter his pace of publication, I think the idea that novelists who publish more frequently retain more cultural prominence is not the point we should focus on.  To me, the more relevant discussion is, if literature is an important part of our culture and society, then why aren’t authors more supported by our society?  I don’t see healthcare for authors (yes, the Freelancers Union does exist but their healthcare option is still unaffordable for many artists).  While some authors make the money they deserve, most aren’t reimbursed for the insane amount of time they put into a novel.  Creative writing is not considered a crucial part of our public school curriculum.  Basically, I think Garner should take some responsibility off the authors and place it on our society.  If writers were able to treat their work like a full-time job and not worry about all the shit that comes along with that, most of them would finish their novels at a faster rate and perhaps retain more cultural prominence.  Instead of going off about how authors should work harder so they can “be central to the cultural conversation,” perhaps Garner should explore how our cultural conversations can better support the arts.

Modern music is losing its punch.  Yes, there are some great local groups who still kill it (TV on the Radio, The London Souls and The Press, to name a few) but I honestly believe the scene is so inundated and used up that most bands aren’t even trying to be original anymore.  This too-cool-for-school-’cause-I’m-DIY-and-indie attitude annoys the shit out of me.  Has anyone else noticed the latest trend where musicians act like they’re bored as hell when they’re playing?  That’s a real rush for fans – nothin’ gets me pumped up and excited like a blase, repetitive song delivered by dudes who sound like they’d rather be sleeping.

Obviously, I think contemporary bands need to amp it up.  Too many people forget the importance of personal style when it comes to their music.  I’m not talkin’ about sequin dresses and fancy hairdos (though I do appreciate a good lookin’ band).  I’m talkin’ about the tunes themselves.   We need to pay attention to our lyrics, use them to say something about who we are, what we want and what we think about the state of affairs in our country right now.  We need to throw in that weird bass line, that key change, that uncomfortable chord or whatever element we come up with but don’t explore because it’s not on the radio.  We don’t have to get all prog-rocky and change time signatures every other measure; simple music can be damn good.  But we do need to take a little more responsibility for our world and our lives and let our music be an outlet for that.  Let your sassy self come out and play!  Being boring is lame.  Writing songs that sound just like everything else is not cool. Honestly, if your real self is so bored with life that the best performance you can give is deadpan and dull, maybe you should make some changes.

For a little inspiration, enjoy the smokin’ classic Mr. Big Stuff by Jean Knight.  I just love those funky grooves, catchy horn licks, empowering, fun lyrics and that backup section wailin’ the call-and-response.  But you know what I love most about it?  It’s real and it’s interesting.  Of course we can’t all rock the afro and sing the soul, but maybe revisiting some awesome old songs will help guide us toward an even awesomer future.  ’Cause really, who do you think you are?

“Read More” Launches.  We’re Story Pushers Now.

It’s hard for us busy New Yorkers to sit down and find a short story worth reading.  Maybe it’s because of our frenetic schedules, our massive hangovers or the fact that quality short stories are not easy to come by unless we’re actively hunting.  For those of you too busy or lazy or daunted or worn out to do the searching, I have some advice: sign up for The Literary Review’s new email list HERE.  Short stories and poetry of the coolest kind delivered bimonthly to your inbox.  Plus stellar art and interesting themes (photo taken from the latest print issue entitled “Emo Meet Hole”).

Read below for more info from Editor-in-Chief Minna Proctor and enjoy reading more!

Hello Friends,

Many of you received a story by Robert Repino in your email boxes this week from us. If so, please accept my formal welcome to our first issue of Read More, a new publication of The Literary Review.

Read More is a newsless newsletter. Twice a month we will be sending you (if you like) selections of poetry or prose directly from the pages of TLR. In other words, we’d like to give you some literature to brighten the inbox clutter of headlines, coupons, events, bank statements, and listserve updates.

This is a little bit of a rogue idea, I know. I was reminded of that in particular this morning when a colleague from the IT department instructed me on the fine distinctions between a “push” communication and a “pull” communication. Obviously a mass email is a push communication—we are forcing stories and poems up0n you. A website (such as the one you are reading now) is a “pull,” whereby in various ways you are enticed to come to visit our website and if you so choose, while here, you can take advantage of some of our featured online content.

What we’d like to do with Read More, and with literature in general, is push and pull and publish by any and every means necessary. It’s a noisy chattering world out there online and in the supermarket and at the movie theater and in the bookstore. Our mission atThe Literary Review is to publish and provide you with as much literary art as we can reasonably traffic (and keep the chatter to a minimum). We want to get the stories to the readers.

And so, we venture forward with this, another new TLR platform, to compliment our new ebooks, and new website, and the more ways now available to buy the physically beautiful print version of our magazine.

Thank you for being pulled to our website. If you’re interested in being pushed to as well, please sign up for Read More here.

All my best to you and thank you again for being part of TLR.

Minna Proctor
Editor

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